Print Читать на русском
Rate this article
(votes: 1, rating: 5)
 (1 vote)
Share this article
Mesut Özcan

Director of the Diplomacy Academy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Turkey

On October 23, the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC) hosted III International Conference «Russia and Turkey: Strategic Directions of a Multidimensional Pertnership». RIAC Website Editor Anastasia Tolstukhina discussed with Mesut Özcan, Director of the Diplomacy Academy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Turkey, the significance of the Track II diplomacy for international politics, current negative and positive trends in Russia–Turkey relations, possible joint actions of Moscow and Ankara in the Middle East and other issues.

On October 23, the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC) hosted III International Conference «Russia and Turkey: Strategic Directions of a Multidimensional Pertnership». RIAC Website Editor Anastasia Tolstukhina discussed with Mesut Özcan, Director of the Diplomacy Academy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Turkey, the significance of the Track II diplomacy for international politics, current negative and positive trends in Russia–Turkey relations, possible joint actions of Moscow and Ankara in the Middle East and other issues.

Could you share your thoughts on the conference? How would you assess its role in Russia–Turkey dialog?

First, we have very good and solid cooperation with the RIAC. We established this relationship a couple of years ago, so we organize joint events both in Ankara and in Moscow. At the same time, we work on joint publications in the journal. It means that our partnership goes beyond joint activities in terms of conferences and workshops. I visited this institution last year for a workshop, this time we have come for a conference and are also presenting a joint publication. It means we have a solid foundation for further relations. What is the content of this cooperation? The partnership between our organizations contributes to bilateral relations. Being neighboring countries, Turkey and Russia have many things in common. There are some differences as well, but at the same time there is a political will on both sides to have good relations and also cultural and personal ties between the two countries. So this conference is a kind of venue where we have a good chance to discuss different aspects of our relations and to contribute to our relations thanks to such type of regular meetings. For this reason, from my perspective, this conference contributes a lot to this academic dimension of Russia–Turkey relationship. I hope that it will continue in the future as well.

How significant is the Track II diplomacy for international politics?

It is very beneficial in today’s world in addition to government-to-government relations. Track II diplomacy is increasingly used by different players, especially in terms of regional issues, like the ones in the Middle East or in the Caucasus, or even in terms of bilateral issues. So this type of Track II diplomacy is gaining importance because Track II diplomatic tools are providing inputs to the decision-makers. The participants feel free to discuss any issue in a more detailed manner, in a much longer period of time. So it enables them to learn more about the perspective of the other side and also to transmit unpleasant messages in a much friendlier manner, because normally, when politicians come together, they have to follow the strict lines of their states, their state-views. On the other hand, usually this type of meetings enables to feel the other side. And maybe in this way you can revise your position. For this reason such diplomatic tools help the decision-makers and are increasingly employed by different countries.

Let’s speak about Russia–Turkey relations. Which factors have negative influence on our current relations?

We have certain disagreements on some regional issues, like the issues in the Black Sea, in the Caucasus, on Armenia and also some issues in the Middle East. So, they have a negative impact on our relations. But it is natural to have differences in opinion between neighboring countries, even between allies. But on the other hand, in order to have better understanding of your counterparts you should have this type of contacts with them and try to minimize the negative effects, directing disagreements into a much more cooperative track, diminishing friction and tension, and working more and more on possible ways of cooperation.

And what about good trends?

We can talk about different types of good trends. There is political will on both sides, and 25 years after the end of the Cold war, we have established some kind of relationship, and despite some fluctuations over these years, we have solid ground to build good relations. In addition to the political field, in the economic field we established a much more stable economic relations, so despite these disagreements on some issues, our economic relations have improved. Starting from 1980 – 1990’s, today we have good trends in these relations. Many Russians are visiting Turkey, many Turkish people are visiting Russia, so some kind of a strong bond has been established. A number of Russians permanently reside in Turkey, have their families there, and own houses or other properties in Turkey, they’re establishing good trends in communication between the two states, two nations. These are good trends in terms of improving bilateral ties.

Taking in consideration that Turkey is a NATO member, do you think it could play a positive role in reactivating Russia–NATO relations?

Of course, there are some differences in opinion between NATO-states and Russia regarding regional issues, but on the other hand, not all NATO-members are imposing sanctions on Russia – Turkey is not joining the sanctions. There has to be some kind of communication between the two sides in order to decrease the tension and avoid any type of, let’s say, undesired outcomes. For this reason there has to be a role to be played by different players, and Turkey might play such a role because Turkey is one of the important partners in NATO. There might be, as you suggested, some roles to be played by Turkey. There’re some disagreements between Turkey and other NATO-members, but on the other hand, as the second biggest army in NATO, Turkey is definitely playing an important role.

What kind of joint actions can Turkey and Russia undertake in the Middle East in terms of building new security architecture?

When we look at the security problems in the Middle East, we witness the space to be filled here. First, in many cases, in many countries we see failures like in Syria, in Yemen, in Libya, to a certain extent in Iraq. The states cannot provide desired security because of some other actors, militias, military groups, other types of actors who fill this gap. There has to be a kind of regional security mechanism, parliamentary, state institutions that could provide security for all the citizens irrespective of their ethnicity, their religion and so on. So, there has to be a kind of responsible state structure, where regional players like Turkey, Russia and others may play such a role in terms of providing guidance and assistance to these countries. Judging by what we witness in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, and in other places, the states did not have such capacity. Nowadays they cannot provide this protection. It resulted in a power vacuum the military groups benefited from. And these security problems affected Turkey, Russia, and many other countries economically, politically, and socially, because of many migrants and military groups. It is not only contained or limited to the Middle East, it is affecting other countries. And countries like Turkey and Russia can contribute to establishing effective security mechanisms, helping the states which have accountable transparent systems to protect their citizens. Turkey is trying to contribute to the efforts of the international community. For example, Turkey’s participating in the Anti-DAESH, Anti-ISIS coalition in Iraq, assisting in training the Iraqi forces providing some equipment and also sharing experience with the Iraqi. So similarly, in other parts of the region there have to be some efforts of the international community. Turkey and Russia might play an important role because they’re mostly affected, so they have to invest more in terms of this type of regional security framework to meet such factors.


Rate this article
(votes: 1, rating: 5)
 (1 vote)
Share this article
 
For business
For researchers
For students